TAMPA, FL -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a revised January
crop estimate Jan. 12 that shows a reduction in orange production of 3 million
boxes, with damage totals from late December freezing weather yet to be
The new figures from the USDA show a drop from an original January estimate
of 143 million boxes to 140 million boxes. Most of the reduction is due to
smaller fruit size than anticipated rather than freeze losses.
Michael Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of
Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said that the estimate shows "some
preliminary effects" of a half-dozen nights of sub-freezing weather spread
over three weeks in December, but primarily reflects smaller fruit size.
"While the industry as a whole came through the cold in decent shape, we did
have frozen fruit and leaf damage across most of the growing regions as well
as more extensive damage in a few select areas, and this report reflects that,"
Mr. Sparks said.
Surveyors from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Florida
Field Office, tallied the damage in Florida groves in a special survey
conducted Jan. 10-11. A full report on citrus damage showing the results of
that survey is expected Jan. 18.
Some Florida citrus growers do not think the special survey will show a
dramatic impact from December's cold. Many growers salvaged the December
crop for juice following the cold snaps and were readying to transition to
mid-season varieties at the start of the new year. Others made it through the
freezes with minimal damage.
"We seem to have fared very well through those cold nights in December,"
said Al Finch of Florida Classic Growers in Lake Hamilton, FL. "We had a
tremendous first half of the season. We had good volume, good arrivals, and
the demand was very good for Florida citrus, especially for Sunburst
tangerines and Navels. We had a little larger crop of those, so we've been able
to stretch that season into January."
Mr. Finch also said that the midseason crop is showing gains in size over
early-season varieties, which were smaller than normal in all production areas
The USDA estimate for grapefruit remained unchanged at 19.6 million boxes.
The forecast for early and midseason varieties in Florida shrunk by 1 million
boxes, to 67 million boxes, while the projection for Valencias decreased by 2
million boxes, to 73 million boxes.
For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA's tangelo estimate was reduced by
100,000 boxes, to 1 million boxes, while the tangerine forecast was reduced
by 200,000 boxes, to 4.2 million boxes.